Scary PR Situations – Security Breaches Are Not Just an Internal Nightmare!

Every few weeks there are new warnings about cybersecurity. A new virus or hacking occurs and business owners scramble to make sure their IT systems are keeping their information secure. While it’s smart business to make sure your security software is up-to-date, there are other implications when a company gets hacked such as – how does this impact your customers?

I recently attended an excellent presentation sponsored by the Alpharetta Business Association about cybersecurity. The speakers included representatives from the City of Alpharetta Public Safety and the FBI. We’re very lucky to have such strong law enforcement experts in our area!

The tips they provided focused on awareness, planning, and IT issues. Alpharetta-Roswell Revue & News Editor Jonathan Copsey, wrote a great story summarizing important safety tips for business owners. Here’s a link to his article: Caution Key to Cybersecurity.

From a public relations perspective, security goes beyond the immediate threat to your business but also has implications for your reputation. Your company needs to be trusted to keep customers’ information safe as well as physically safe at your place of business.

Here are three PR tips to help maintain your company’s credibility while dealing with a scary security situation:

  • Prepare a written security policy and make sure your staff is aware of it and knows how to put it into action in case of an emergency or non-emergency security threat. For some businesses, this should be practiced so everyone knows what their role is in the situation. This can be criminal activity but also weather-related and natural disasters. In such an event, your customers and employees are relying on you to keep them safe.
  • Adopt a “Bring Your Own Device” policy that covers employees’ computer, tablet, and cell phone use that will help your company avoid cyber threats. Make sure the staff is aware of it and abides by it. Viruses are easily spread from smart phones to office computers and then servers. This policy should also include password use and changes, need to know levels, and how contractors and/or former employees are to be managed.
  • Develop a communications plan for when a security or information breach occurs. If your organization collects personal information from customers such as credit card or social security numbers make sure your system has the latest payment system security requirements and your Wi-Fi is secure. The written communication plan will be used to guide your company on how to alert the authorities, customers, and vendors and how you will manage the recovery process … building trust again with your customers.

There are far too many security nightmares to come up with a plan to deal with each one. However, with some thoughtful preparation, your organization can be ready, at least from a communications standpoint, to deal with these types of threats. And, helping you to safeguard your trusted relationship with your customers.